“Short drip, double cup.”
Nine years ago, that’s how Proctor Starbucks barista Sandie Andersen knew Annamarie Ausnes — by her drink order.
The two women now share an incredible, lasting friendship.
They laugh together. They vacation together. They share a love of cooking.
And to think, it all started with an internal organ ... one of Andersen’s kidneys, to be exact.
Andersen, who retired from Starbucks last week after a 14-year run at the company, the last 12 at the Proctor location, made headlines across the world in 2008 when she donated one of her kidneys to Ausnes.
It was an incredible, to some unfathomable, act of kindness, a barista giving the gift of life to a woman who — outside of her regular coffee orders — was essentially a stranger.
It made the New York Times. It was featured on the Ellen Degeneres show.
The story went viral in a time before the proliferation of cat videos or the ice bucket challenge.
I just kind of presented the opportunity to her, and for whatever reason … she reached out. I think when Sandie makes a decison, she makes it. She goes all the way.
Annamarie Ausnes on Sandie Andersen’s decision to give her a kidney
Andersen’s retirement brought an opportunity to check in with the women and see how life has treated them since their 15 minutes of fame.
I’m pleased to report both are happy and healthy. Andersen’s kidney — which the duo has named Rose — has done the trick for Ausnes.
That would be a good story in itself.
But the bond Ausnes and Andersen have forged in the time that has passed kind of stole the show.
Not only have the two woman kept in touch, they’re “best friends,” Ausnes said.
Having retired from her job at the University of Puget Sound in 2015, Ausnes and her husband recently moved from Tacoma to a home they built in Chelan in 1995. Each year since the transplant, Andersen and her husband have joined the couple for an annual visit.
“I told her I could never repay her for the kidney,” Ausnes said, “but I can give her a trip to Chelan every year.”
The friends also have vacationed in Palm Springs and Las Vegas. Sandie and Annamarie, you see, love the sun.
They also love to cook.
During the 2015 Chelan wildfires, Andersen joined Ausnes in preparing meals for firefighters battling the blaze.
In 2008, it would have been difficult to foresee any of that.
Back then, Ausnes was staring dialysis in the face, sinking into stage four of polycystic kidney disease. It’s an incurable condition she was born with.
At the time, Andersen and Ausnes’ relationship was a simple one. Nearly every morning, on her way to her job at UPS, Ausnes would stop for her no-frills, morning coffee at Andersen’s Proctor store.
The coffee cost $1.52, Ausnes remembered. She had a habit of paying in change, scooped from her husband’s dresser before she left the house.
Counting it gave Andersen a little extra time to chat with Ausnes.
They’d exchange small talk — pleasantries surrounding their families, grandchildren or vacation plans — and move on.
Then, one day, Ausnes showed up and Andersen could tell something was off.
She didn’t look good, Andersen recalled.
“I crossed boundaries that you’re not supposed to cross anymore, because it’s not politically correct,” Andersen remembered. “I grabbed her hand and I said, ‘What’s going on?’ She said, ‘Well, I have health issues.’ She wasn’t going to cross the boundary.
“But I wouldn’t let go. And that’s when she told me.”
As it turned out, Ausnes needed a kidney — badly. And there was no one in her family who could give her one. Without a transplant, her days were numbered.
Andersen knew Ausnes’ order, but she didn’t know her name.
For some reason, that didn’t stop the barista from offering to get tested to see if she was a match.
Initially, Ausnes was flustered. She handed Andersen a donor information card but forgot to write her name or phone number on it.
That meant that after Andersen got tested, and found out she was a match, she had to wait for Ausnes to return to the store to deliver the good news.
She just started bawling. And I said, ‘By the way, I’m Sandie.’
Sandie Andersen recalls the moment she delivered the good news
“Finally, there’s a line to the door, it’s 7 o’clock in the morning, and she walks in,” Andersen recalled. “I grabbed her hand, and I just said, ‘Hey, I’m going to give you a kidney. I’m going to go for it.’
“She just started bawling. And I said, ‘By the way, I’m Sandie.’”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Nine years later, after calling it a career at Starbucks and now preparing for a retirement full of adventures, including ones with the friend whose life she probably saved, Andersen remains certain of her decision.
“It was the right thing to do,” Andersen said. “If this lady needed a coat, I’d give her a coat. She needed a kidney, so I gave her a kidney. It felt simple like that.
“If I had another one, I’d give it away, too. I mean, why not?”